Oral presentations are one of the most common forms of assessment at university along with written assignments. During your studies you will be asked to do several types of presentations such as providing a solution to a case study, presenting different research views of a topics, acting as an opponent on your fellow student’s paper or persuading your audience to a certain point of view.
Planning an effective presentation
The first step of planning an effective presentation includes defining a clear purpose and selecting relevant information. An effective presentation always has a clear objective. Some questions you may want to ask yourself are:
- what is the reason for giving the presentation?
- what is it that you want to achieve through your presentation?
- what is the take-away message that you want the audience to walk away with?
Answering these questions in the planning phase will help you to organize your thoughts. Once you know what the purpose is you can move forward with planning the presentation.
Remember that in all assignments at university it is important to understand what is expected of you. Before you start working on any assignment take a few minutes to look at the command words that indicate what it is you are supposed to do. This is called ‘Interpreting the task’.
Another aspect of the planning phase is to identify the main points of your argument. Often a presentation is broken down into three to five main points but this can vary. Once you identify the main points of your argument you can start selecting appropriate and relevant information to support your arguments. For example, you may use some illustrations or case studies to back up your point. As with all university assignments it is important to find relevant and credible sources.
Structuring an effective presentation
Having a clear structure provides a framework for your presentation. There are many similarities between a written assignment and an oral presentation. In both the written text and an oral presentation the basic structure is the same: there is an introduction, body and a conclusion.
The introduction is a very important part of your presentation. It gives you an opportunity to set the scene for your talk and get the audience interested in what you are going to talk about. The introduction should clearly state the purpose of the presentation and outline the structure of the presentation. This way the audience can envision what the presentation will look like.
An introduction can include:
- your name
- the subject/purpose of your talk
- brief background information
- a statement as to why the subject is relevant
- a clear outline of the main points
The body of the presentation is the core of your presentation. This is where you develop your main points. In the planning phase you identified the main points and in the body of the presentation you state clearly what the main points are and back them up with supporting information. You can share case studies, diagrams, appropriate data and other material to help support your argument and substantiate your claims.
The conclusion is an opportunity to sum up your main points and to leave the audience with a final impression of the subject. The conclusion is often an underdeveloped part of a presentation so make sure you allot enough time to end your presentation strongly.
Another aspect of an effective presentation is making sure that each part of the presentation is connected through using signposting language. In an academic text it is important to guide the reader along. This can be done through the use of signposting language. It is equally important in an oral presentation to guide the audience along so that the audience knows where the presentation is going. There are several words and phrases that you can use throughout your presentation to guide the audience along.
Delivering an effective presentation
An important part of giving a presentation is to be able to communicate your thoughts in an engaging and effective way. A well-written presentation in combination with an effective delivery style will keep the audience interested and entertained. One way to have an effective delivery is to be able to connect with the audience. You can connect with the audience through your body language, eye contact and through the pitch and tone of your voice. Visual aids are also an integral part of the delivery. Good visual aids help convey your message.
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